No witty ease in, metaphors, or build up from me today. This afternoon the Oilers face the Hawks in Game 1 of the Qualifying Round. Let's get to it.
A best of 5 series leaves little room for error by either team. Should the Oilers lose game 1, that means they will have to win 3 of the next 4 games. Starting in the hole in this shortened series could be a death sentence. Edmonton cannot start this game off slow and work their way into it. This team needs to fly out of the gates strong and not lay off for even a second.
After the trade deadline when Edmonton acquired Green, Ennis, and Athanasiou and the Hawks lost Lehner and Gustafsson the Oilers played another 9 games before the season was suspended and the Hawks played another 8.
- The Hawks produced the second most goals in the league at 5 on 5 in that time while the Oilers produced the third most
- The Hawks had the 8th best GF% while the Oilers had the 14th
This is going to be a tough series. While the Hawks should not have been in this tournament, the fact remains they are...and Edmonton needs to beat them.
I expect Tippett to not shy away from playing his top guys heavy minutes today and through this series. Throughout the season we saw Draisaitl and McDavid playing 25+ minutes a night and in the most important game of the season so far you can bet we will see this again. Look for them to not only receive a healthy dose of ice-time but to double shift on the third and fourth lines in order to get some better matchups.
Tippett had coached a total of 1185 regular season games and 74 playoff games. Jeremy Colliton, coach of the Blackhawks has coached a total of 137 regular season games and 0 playoff games. Coaching will be a factor in this matchup and if Tippett can use his experience to frustrate the opposing coach it will be another weight to help tip the scales in the Oilers favor.
1.) Kontrol Kane - Patrick Kane is an Oiler killer. This season the brilliant winger went 2-2-4 in three games against Edmonton and through his career has gone 18-38-56 through 43 games. In 127 playoff games for the Hawks, Kane has 123 points. Tippett needs to find a way to shut down this elite player or he may single handily win this series for the Hawks.
2.) Pressure Crawford - Some Oilers fans were wringing their hands as they watched Crawford not allow a single goal on the way to a 4-0 shutout of the Blues. While Chicago was putting their best foot forward in their only exhibition game before playoff action, the Blues clearly did not, knowing they still have a round robin to get into game form. The Hawks starting netminder was not challenged once through that game and the Oilers need to put the pressure on early and prevent him from getting into a rhythm. The Hawks do have the best goalie in this series.
3.) Pressure The Middle - Names like Kane, Debrincat, and even Kubalik are worrisome for the Oilers but aside from Jonathan Toews the middle of the ice is young and inexperienced for the Hawks. Strome and Dach are fine young players and the latter may turn into a star but both are still quite raw. It's difficult to know how these games will be played but playoff hockey is traditionally much more physical and tight where players have to fight for every chance. Putting the gears to these young guys early and forcing them to make mistakes in the middle of the ice could create some odd man rushes for the Oilers.
4.) Do It For Colby - The Oilers had a beautiful video memorial for Colby Cave prior to their exhibition game against the Calgary Flames. Mikko Koskinen has added a tribute to Caver on his mask, each player wore his jersey during their last scrimmage, it is clear Colby was loved by his teammates and he will be in their thoughts today and they will want to win this one and many more for him.
This is my first playoff game write-up for HockeyBuzz and hopefully I will get the opportunity to write many more of these through the summer. I just wanted to take a brief moment to thank you, the readers for sticking things out with me on this site over the past few months. It wasn't always easy but I'm glad we got through this together. I guess I have nothing left to say but...
FILM OF THE DAY
You didn't think I was going to forget about this now did you? This is a triumphant return to hockey and the Oilers should make quite the entrance. One of my favourite character entrances in a movie would absolutely have to be Harmonica from Once Upon A Time In The West. Imagine Harmonica is Connor McDavid while the other three in this scene are Toews, Crawford, and Kane.